As early as Thursday, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation could announce plans to split off Sky News in order to gain approval from U.K. regulators for its planned takeover of British Sky Broadcasting, according to the BBC.
According to reports, the plan would see the Sky News channel formally separated from BSkyB. The likely scenario is that News Corp. would keep its current minority stake in the news channel while taking full control of the rest of BSkyB. Robert Preston of the BBC believes the move would likely be enough to get regulators’ blessing.
Since last year, when News Corp. first proposed purchasing the 61 percent of BSkyB it does not already own for roughly $12.7 billion, critics have argued against the move on the grounds that it would give the company too much control over British news. (News Corp. already owns some of England’s biggest newspapers.)
Ofcom, the British communications regulator, wanted the deal to go before the U.K.’s Competition Commission. Separately, the European Commission has approved News Corp.’s bid. Jeremy Hunt, the U.K.’s secretary of state for culture, media and sport, is expected to announce his decision on the matter soon.
By adding BSkyB to its portfolio, News Corp. would gain control over entertainment channel Sky1 and four popular sports channels.
News Corp. has yet to gain approval from the board at BSkyB.
Update: Hunt has now officially come out to support the proposed takeover. The idea of spinning off Sky News was apparently key to his support. "This is a move that will actually protect plurality of news provision in the UK, something that is incredibly important. It will strengthen the independence of Sky News," Hunt said.
Regulators still have to weigh in on the deal, but Hunt’s approval is being seen as a sign that News Corp. will ultimately get the green light.